In what has widely been condemned as attempt to glorify child soldiers and death, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told a girl in military uniform that she would be honored if killed in battle.
"If she's martyred, they'll lay a flag on her," he told the girl, who is believed to be 5 to 6 years old, during an event organized by his party.
The crowd broke into cheers, shouting, "Chief! Take us to Afrin!", a reference to Turkey's military operation in Afrin in northwest Syria, against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), deemed as terrorists by the Turkish government.
Erdogan was delivering a speech when he spotted the little girl, identified as Amine Tiras, in the crowd. When he called her on stage, she started weeping.
While comforting the child, the Turkish leader said, "Her Turkish flag is in her pocket... She is ready for everything, aren't you?"
Predictably, the bizarre statement prompted criticism online, with many accusing the Turkish president of promoting child deaths, which is all the more upsetting considering it comes just days after nearly 200 children died in neighboring Syria, after a week of bombardment by the Syrian regime.